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MetLife hires consultant to review brand strategy

MetLife hired ad consultancy BrightHouse, Atlanta, to review its marketing initiatives. The action doesn't affect MetLife's relationship with longtime agency of record Y&R Advertising, New York, said a spokesman for the insurance company. He said BrightHouse isn't working on new ads but is reviewing MetLife's brand strategy in light of the company's initial public offering and the changes in the marketplace. "It's more about asking what we should be doing," the spokesman said. "We want to broaden the definition of who we are as a company."

Alcatel shifts to Arnold as telecom giant eyes U.S.

Global telecommunications equipment company Alcatel, Paris, selected Arnold Communications, Boston, to handle its estimated $100 million U.S. account. The agency will develop creative and media strategy. DSW Partners, Salt Lake City, previously handled. Alcatel, the largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer outside the U.S., is looking to battle Nortel, Lucent Technologies and Cisco Systems as it fights for a piece of the U.S. market. "The United States represents the single largest growth market for Alcatel," said a spokeswoman for the $23 billion company.

Hochberg forms company; Asher, Italia/Gal merge

Joel Hochberg, 60, former president-chief operating officer and partner at Asher & Partners, Los Angeles, is forming his own consultancy, AdHoch Consulting. Separately, Mr. Hochberg's old agency is merging with Italia/Gal to create Asher/Gal & Partners. Hal Asher, 60, will be chairman and Kenneth Gal, 43, president-CEO of the merged agency; other partners include Darryl Asher, general manager; Bruce Dundore, 44, chief creative officer; Leah Mitchell, director of media services; Barry Schoenfeld, director of business development; and Christine Steele, director of account management, all keeping their previous titles. The merger follows Asher losing two of its biggest pieces of business, the California Department of Health Services anti-smoking effort and American Suzuki Motor Corp.

Europe to seek pitches for $20 mil anti-cig effort

The European Commission is poised to ask non-governmental organizations and ad agencies to pitch for a $20 million campaign aimed at highlighting the dangers of tobacco. "The $20 million budget will be administered by a group of applicants, rather than one organization only," a commission spokeswoman said. The commission expects medical institutes and non-governmental organizations to form the bulk of applicants. But marketing agencies also will be welcome. The campaign budget will be in addition to the commission's existing six-year campaign, estimated at between $50 million and $60 million, to warn European citizens about the dangers of smoking.

GOP, Dem conventions vote for Panasonic TVs

Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.'s Panasonic brand was named the official electronics provider for the Republican and Democratic national conventions. The consumer electronics giant will supply 60-inch flat-panel plasma screen TVs and high-definition TVs in key venues at both events.

Double-digit profit gains prevail in second quarter

Young & Rubicam, New York, had good news for future parent WPP Group last week, reporting a gain of more than 20% in second-quarter profits. But Y&R wasn't the only agency boasting a bounteous three months:

nY&R revealed second-quarter net income soared 23% from a year ago to $37.5 million, as revenue rose 19.5% to $495 million. The agency cited a 14% increase in organic revenue. First-half results: net income up 37.4% to $69.1 million; revenue up 18.2% to $943.3 million.

nInterpublic Group of Cos., New York, said net income rose 15% to $171.9 million. Revenue was up 15% to $1.4 billion. Revenue from domestic operations increased 20% and from international operations was up 10%. Interpublic cited strong new-business gains, with its networks snaring net new business of about $900 million in billings, up 71%. First-half results: net income up 16% to $230 million; revenue up 16% to $2.6 billion.

nTrue North Communications, Chicago, reported net income climbed 29% to $27.1 million on 10% higher revenue of $375.1 million. Net new-business wins more than tripled to $537 million in equivalent annualized billings. First-half results: net income up 44% to $37.3 million; revenue up 12% to $706.1 million.

nOmnicom Group, New York, said net income rose 19% to $127.4 million. Worldwide revenue from commissions and fees climbed 20% to $1.52 billion. Domestic revenue swelled 26% to $805.4 million, as international increased 13% to $714.8 million. First-half results: net income up 57% to $270.9 million; revenue up 25% to $3 billion.

nHa-Lo Industries, Niles, Ill., reported a net loss of $11.1 million as it completed the acquisition of Starbelly.com. A year ago, the promotional products company had net income of $853,000 for the period. Second quarter 2000 sales rose 10.7% over a year ago to $177.5 million. The acquisition of Starbelly creates a new division at Ha-Lo called Ha-Lo Branded Solutions. First-half results: net loss of $15.7 million vs. net income of $5.1 million a year ago; sales up 6.7% to $338.7 million.

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